NB Power

NB Power
Énergie NB Power
Type Government-owned corporation
Industry Electricity generation, transmission and distribution
Founded April 29, 1920 (1920-04-29)
Headquarters Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
Area served New Brunswick
Key people Gaëtan Thomas,
Services Electricity
Revenue increaseC$1,635 million (2010)[3]
Operating income decrease(C$170 million) (2010)[3]
Net income decrease(C$117 million) (2010)[3]
Total assets increaseC$5,379 million (2010)[4]
Total equity decreaseC$174 million (2010)[4]
Owner(s) Government of New Brunswick
Employees 2,699 (2010)[5]
Website www.nbpower.com

NB Power (French: Énergie NB), formerly known as New Brunswick Power Corporation and New Brunswick Electric Power Commission is the primary and former monopoly electrical utility in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. NB Power is a Crown Corporation wholly owned by the Government of New Brunswick and is composed of a holding company and 4 sub-companies: NB Power Distribution and Customer Service, NB Power Generation, NB Power Nuclear, and NB Power Transmission. The New Brunswick System Operator, not part of NB Power, is an independent market operator that administers relationships between power generators and users.



The development of the electricity industry in New Brunswick started the 1880s with the establishment of small private power plants in Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton. Over the next 30 years, other cities successively electrified, so much so that in 1918, more than 20 companies were active in the electricity business, which left the province with wildly differing levels of services and prices. In Saint John for instance, the rates fluctuated between 7.5 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on the location and the monthly consumption.[6]

Recognizing the important role that electricity was about to play in economic development, Premier Walter E. Foster proposed the creation of an provincially-owned electric company. The Legislative Assembly passed a bill to that effect. The New Brunswick Electric Power Commission (NBEPC) was created on April 24, 1920. Immediately, the commission, headed by its first president, C. W. Robinson, launched the construction of a C$ 2 million hydroelectric dam at Musquash, west of Saint John. To supply the cities of Saint John, Moncton and Sussex, a 88 miles (142 km) long high voltage power line was also built.[7]

The new earth dam was completed on time, in 1922. But it could not withstand the 1923 spring flood and collapsed,[7] an accident which shattered a bit of confidence in the new commission. The building of a larger facility in Grand Falls, on the Upper Saint John River, was undertaken in 1926 by a subsidiary of International Paper Company and completed in 1930.[7] Electricity demand increased during that decade and more generation facilities were required to supply the province. The commission decided to take advantage of coal resources in the Minto area and built a plant near the mines. The Grand Lake Generating Station was commissioned in 1931 and then expanded five years later.[8]

WWII and after

The floodgates of the Grand Falls generating station, during the annual freshet of the Saint John River.

Demand for electricity exploded during World War II and led to rationing in the late 1940s.[9] Meanwhile, the commission embarked on the construction of two major dams on the Saint John River, the Tobique and Beechwood generating stations, which were respectively commissioned in 1953 and 1955. See below regarding First Nations relations.

The Commission bought the Grand Falls Generating Station in 1959[9] and began work on the province's largest hydroelectric facility, the Mactaquac dam, whose first three units were put on stream in 1968.[10]

However, the new hydroelectric developments proved insufficient to bridge the imbalance between supply and demand, which grew by 12% per annum between 1960 and 1975. To cope with this demand growth, the commission began construction of the oil-fired Courtenay Bay Generating Station, near the Saint John shipyard in 1959; it was also adjacent to the Irving Oil Refinery, which entered service in the late 1950s and which the Courtney Bay GS made use of a pipeline running from the Canaport offshore loading facility at Red Head to the refinery. The first 50 MW turbine was put in service at Courtney Bay GS the next year, while two more units were added in 1965 and 1966.[10] To better serve northern New Brunswick, another oil-fired plant, the Dalhousie Generating Station, was constructed in Darlington with an initial capacity of 100 MW. It was commissioned in 1969.[10]

In the early 1970s, the NBEPC signed a series of supply contracts with New England distributors, justifying the construction of its largest power plant in 1972. With three 335 MW units, the oil-fired Coleson Cove Generating Station was completed in January 1977. However, the 1973 oil shock made the operation of thermal plants more expensvie, since oil prices rose from US$3 to US$37 per barrel between 1973 and 1982. The company, which was renamed NB Power / Énergie NB during that time, needed to explore other generating options.[11]

Point Lepreau

The construction of a nuclear plant in New Brunswick has been discussed since the late 1950s. For over 15 years, engineers from the NBEPC visited the Chalk River Laboratories to keep abreast of the latest trends in the field.[11] Formal talks between the provincial and federal governments began in 1972 and discussions between representatives of Premier Richard Hatfield and Atomic Energy of Canada accelerated the following year. In the aftermath of the oil crisis, the province wanted to secure a source of electricity which prices would be less volatile than oil. However, project financing was still an issue.[12]

The federal government then announced a loan program to help provinces such as New Brunswick in January 1974. Ottawa's pledge to cover half of the cost of a first nuclear plant removed the last obstacle to construction of the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. On February 5, 1974, Hatfield announced his decision to build the plant, 20 miles (32 km) west of Saint John, and even raises the possibility of constructing a second one in the future. On May 2, 1975, the Canadian Atomic Energy Commission authorized the construction of two 640-MW units within a site that can accommodate a maximum of four reactors.[12]

Labour unrest, design problems and skyrocketing construction costs significantly increased the plant's price tag. The total price of the first operational CANDU-6 in the world was estimated at 466 million dollars in 1974.[13] When it became operational 8 years later, on February 1, 1983, the cost had soared to C$1.4 billion.[12]


Corporate structure

A NB Power lineman working on a transmission tower in Saint John.

The future of NB Power has been a concern of successive New Brunswick governments for the past 15 years. The Liberal government of Raymond Frenette has published a consultation document in February 1998 to find solutions to ensure the sustainability of NB Power in the twenty-first century.[14]


Shortly after taking office in 1999, the Conservative government of Bernard Lord commissioned TD Securities to conduct an assessment of the company's viability. The study, whose findings were published in 2009, suggested four scenarios: the status quo; a sale to a strategic buyer; privatization through a share offering; or splitting the utility into separate elements. The report valued the company at between $C3.6 and $C4.5 billion.[15] This number however was very strongly contested by those familiar with the value of telecommunications rights of way and smart grid-based services, energy-related and otherwise, who considered the distribution network to have very much more value. These arguments were to be repeated often in the 2009-2010 NB Power controversy.[citation needed]

Between 2001 and 2004, the Lord government spent C$3.2 million to retain the services of CIBC World Markets and Salomon Smith Barney in order to evaluate the resale value of the Point Lepreau and Coleson Cove power plants. The studies, codenamed Cartwheel and Lighthouse, have assessed the value of these assets to roughly C$4.1 billion.[16] A similar valuation was used in the failed 2010 proposal to vend Lepreau to Hydro-Quebec, and was extremely controversial.

2003 reorganization

The Lord government shuffled the company's structure in early 2003 by introducing amendments to the Electricity Act.[17] The Act reorganized NB Power into a holding with four divisions. The Act also maintains the company's distribution, transmission, and nuclear power monopolies, but opened the door to competition in the generation business.[18]

The reorganization also created the New Brunswick Electric Finance Corporation, which is responsible for issuing, managing and paying NB Power's debt through payments dividends, fees and taxes paid by the various subsidiaries.[19]

Following the deregulation model, the company was subdivided in 2004 with the future aim of selling off the various components (privatization)[citation needed]. The distribution and customer service division of NB Power functions as a regulated monopoly and serves all the residential and industrial power consumers in the province, with the exception of those in Saint John; Edmundston and Perth-Andover who are served by Saint John Energy, City of Edmundston Electric and the Perth-Andover Electric Light Commission respectively.


In October 2008, NB Power Holding Corporation was named one of "Canada's Top 100 Employers" by Mediacorp Canada Inc., and was featured in Maclean's newsmagazine.[20] In 2009, NB Power became the first electric utility to be recognized by the National Quality Institute by being awarded a Healthy Workplace Award.

Current members of the board of directors of NB Power are: Chair Ed Barrett who owns various communications companies, current President Gaetan Thomas, Norman Betts, Graham Brown, Francis McGuire, Patrice Merrin Best, Bernard Cyr, Eloi Duguay, Leon Furlong, Lise Caissie, Normand Caissie, and Jane Fritz.

David D. Hay resigned as President after the 2010 controversy, claiming he had never been consulted on the deals, valuations or strategies involved.


Power generation

The Mactaquac dam and generating station on the Saint John River, upstream from Fredericton.

NB Power operates 16 generating stations for a total installed capacity of 3,297 MW in 2008.[5] The generation fleet uses a variety of energy sources, including hydro, nuclear, heavy fuel oil and coal.

According to energy analyst and long-time critic Tom Adams, NB Power "has been the most oil-dependent grid-connected utility in North America".[21] New Brunswick historically was politically dominated by the Irving family whose company Irving Oil remains the dominant fossil fuel supplier in the province. Conflicts of interest have often been noted between supply-side interests in petroleum or nuclear industries and the NB Power board. The utility is notably lax in energy demand management and other means to reduce energy demand, and under current President Gaetan Thomas has been quoted in the press proposing additional nuclear reactors and other supply solutions to grid management problems. He has actively defended NB Power's reliance on nuclear power.[22]

The main generation facilities are spread across the province. However, the Saint John area accounts for half of the total capacity, with the Coleson Cove (978 MW) and Courtenay Bay (113 MW) thermal plants and Point Lepreau.[23] Notably, Saint John is the hub of the Irving business interests.

The nuclear plant, whose rehabilitation has been hotly debated during the first part of the 2000s, was authorized by Bernard Lord's government in July 2005 and a $C 1.4 billion contract was signed with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).[24] Refurbishment work began in April 2008 and was expected to last 18 months. However, due to a series of delays caused in part by problems with the robotic equipment used to remove pressure tubes, the reopening was first postponed by three months in January 2009,[24] and further delayed by four more months in July.[25] In October 2009, New Brunswick Energy Minister Jack Keir stated that the plant is now scheduled to return in operation in February 2011.[26] The costs have been estimated at over one million dollars per day in substitute of supply. Lawsuits were threatened by Premier Shawn Graham in 2010 and meetings were held in Ottawa regarding this liability and the proposed sale of AECL to private non-Canadian interests.

Despite these concerns, Gaetan Thomas, a board member of the Canadian Nuclear Association, continued to promote additional nuclear reactor builds,[27] indicating that as many as four more could be added to Point Lepreau. Plans to build a new nuclear reactor at the southwestern New Brunswick facility received a boost in July 2010, when the province and French manufacturer Areva signed a letter of intent.[28] However, these plans were shelved within hours of the election of a Progressive Conservative government led by David Alward in September 2010.[29]

Northern New Brunswick is served mainly by the Dalhousie plant (300 MW) and the coal-fired plant at Belledune (458 MW). These two facilities are the company's two main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2007, the Belledune plant released 2.94 million tonnes of CO2 while the Dalhousie generating station was responsible for 1.69 million tonnes.[30]

The main hydroelectric facilities are located on the Saint John River. The province's largest, the Mactaquac generating station (672 MW), stands some 20 miles (32 km) upstream of the capital city, Fredericton. It was built between 1965 and 1968 at a cost of C$ 128 million.[10] The plant has been a concern for some time due to a phenomenon called alkali-aggregate reaction, causing the dam to expand and crack. The problem has been known since the 1970s and could reduce the dam's life by half, according to a 2000 report by a panel of international engineering experts commissioned by the Crown corporation.[31]

NB Power's generating stations, as of March 31, 2008[32][33]
Plant Type Capacity (MW) Since Comments
Coleson Cove Heavy fuel oil and petcoke 978 1976
Mactaquac Hydro 672 1968
Point Lepreau Nuclear 635 1983 Currently offline for the Point Lepreau Generating Station Refurbishment Project. Operation should resume in 2011.[26]
Belledune Coal 458 1993
Millbank Combustion turbine 399 1991
Dalhousie Heavy fuel oil 300 1969 Decommissioning announced for 2010
Beechwood Hydro 113 1957
Courtenay Bay Heavy fuel oil 109 1961 Decommissioned in the fall of 2008[34]
Sainte-Rose Combustion turbine 100 1991
Grand Falls Hydro 66 1928
Grand Lake Coal 57 1952 Decommissioning originally planned for June 2010.[35][36] Decommissioning to now take place 3 months ahead of schedule due to extensive fire damage that occurred in late February.[37]
Grand Manan Combustion turbine 28 1989
Tobique Hydro 20 1953
Nepisiguit Falls Hydro 11 1921 Bought by NB Power in 2007
Sisson Hydro 9 1965
Milltown Hydro 4 1911

Transmission network

Transmission lines near the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, in southwestern New Brunswick.

NB Power's transmission grid is 6,801 kilometres (4,226 mi) long and includes high voltage lines at 345, 230 and 138 kV.[32] The company operates interconnections with Hydro-Québec, Nova Scotia Power, Maritime Electric in Prince Edward Island and the ISO New England network in the United States. The network is operated by the transmission division of NB Power, on behalf of the New Brunswick System Operator, a nonprofit organization that oversees the application of North American reliability standards and facilitates the development of a competitive electricity market in the province.[38]

The main power grid forms an "O"-shaped loop and is linked by 345 kV lines. The main substations are located in Edmundston, Saint-André, Eel River, Bathurst, Newcastle, Salisbury, Norton and Keswick. The last two substations are connected to the Saint John area by a series of main lines.

NB Power supplies electricity to Maritime Electric in Prince Edward Island through a sub-sea interconnection cable on the floor of the Northumberland Strait, and imports/exports from/to Nova Scotia via Canada's first electrical interconnection between two provinces. NB Power also has interconnections to Maine.

Because of the asynchronous nature of Hydro-Québec's electricity transmission system, interconnections between the two neighboring provinces require HVDC converters. The first one, the Eel River Converter Station, was installed in 1972 and has a 350 MW transfer capacity.[11] It is the first operative HVDC system equipped with thyristors[39] The second converter, the Madawaska substation (435 MW), was built on the Quebec side of the border in 1985 and is operated by Hydro-Québec TransÉnergie.[23] The two systems are linked by two 230-kV lines between Matapédia and Eel River, and by two 315-kV lines between the Madawaska and Edmundston substations. Some of NB Power loads in these areas can be islanded and supplied as part of the Quebec grid, which increases New Brunswick's import capability to 1,080 MW, whereas export capability to Quebec is limited to 785 MW.[40]

Coal mining

Since 1986, NB Power operates a coal mine in Minto through its NB Coal subsidiary.[23] The company extracts 150,000 tons of coal per year to fuel the Grand Lake Generating Station. On September 30, 2009, the company announced the mine phaseout in conjunction with the decommissioning of its only customer, the 57 MW power plant, built in 1963. The 38 permanent employees at the plant will be redeployed while 57 positions at the mine were eliminated. The company management explained the end of NB Power's presence in the region after nearly 8 decades by stressing the high cost of complying with stricter SO2 regulations.[36]

Deal with Hydro-Québec

On October 29, 2009, the premiers of New Brunswick and Quebec signed a memorandum of understanding[41] to sell most assets of NB Power to Hydro-Québec. This agreement reached after a 9-month negotiation process undertaken at the request of New Brunswick,[42] would have transferred most generation, transmission and distribution assets of the New Brunswick utility to a subsidiary of the Quebec-based Crown corporation, including the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station and 7 hydroelectric plants, but would exclude fossil-fuel fired plants in Dalhousie, Belledune and Coleson Cove.[43]

The memorandum of understanding fostered a spirited public debate in New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada. Despite positive feedback from the province's busineess leaders,[44][45] reactions to the MOU have been hostile. In addition to opposition parties, Newfoundland and Labrador's Danny Williams,[46] the union representing most NB Power employees[47] and wind energy supporters[48] quickly condemned the agreement as detrimental to the interests of New Brunswick.

Opponents in the general public used social media to show their displeasure and contest the various arguments for the deal. On Facebook, 14,000 people joined a group in opposition to the sale within five days of the announcement.[49] A demonstration organized by the group and trade unions drew approximately 600 people outside the Legislative Assembly building on November 17, 2009.[50] A Leger Marketing opinion poll conducted on behalf of Quebecor Media newspapers in November 2009 in New Brunswick and Quebec showed that 60% of New Brunswickers polled opposed the deal, while 22% supported it.[51]

After months of controversies, New Brunswick and Quebec reprentatives signed a second agreement in January 2010, reducing the scope of the sale. Under the revised agreement, the sale would have transferred the hydroelectric and nuclear power plant to Hydro-Quebec for C$3.4 billion. The government of New Brunswick would still own the transmission and distribution divisions and NB Power would enter into a long-term power purchase agreement with Hydro-Québec. The PPA would allow NB Power to deliver the rate freeze for residential and general customers. However, the industrial rates rollback would be smaller than under the original MOU.[52]

On March 24, 2010, Premier Graham announced the deal had fallen through, due to Hydro-Québec's concern over unanticipated risks and costs of some aspects such as dam security and water levels.[53] However, this interpretation was contested by analysts, who blamed the collapse of the deal on the political situation in New Brunswick.[54][55]

Financial results

Financial Data 2010-1998 (year ending on 31 March)
millions of Canadian dollars[56][32][57][58][59][60]
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998
Revenue 1,635 1,453 1,712 1,512 1,585 1,403 1,311 1,273 1,319 1,309 1,248 1,204 1,140
Net earnings (Net losses) (117) 70 89 21 96 9 (18) (77) 20 (78) 17 (423) (21)
Dividends declared 13 13 11 10 12 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total assets 5,379 5,190 4,686 4,151 3,969 3,874 3,729 3,387 3,236 3,298 3,464 3,666 4,197
Long term debt 3,481 3,051 2,891 2,869 2,655 2,459 3,217 2,999 2,530 2,950 2,795 3,019 3,104

See also

  • List of power stations in New Brunswick
  • Proposed sale of NB Power


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  3. ^ a b c NB Power 2010, p. 47
  4. ^ a b NB Power 2010, p. 48
  5. ^ a b NB Power 2010, p. 79
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  7. ^ a b c NB Power (1990). "The nineteen twenties - the early years" (PDF). http://www.nbpower.com/html/en/about/publications/history_pdfs/history20.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  8. ^ NB Power (1990). "The nineteen thirties - from hydro to coal" (PDF). http://www.nbpower.com/html/en/about/publications/history_pdfs/history30.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  9. ^ a b NB Power (1990). "The nineteen fifties - the hydro years" (PDF). http://www.nbpower.com/html/en/about/publications/history_pdfs/history50.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  10. ^ a b c d NB Power (1990). "The nineteen sixties - over a billion kilowatts generated" (PDF). http://www.nbpower.com/html/en/about/publications/history_pdfs/history60.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  11. ^ a b c NB Power (1990). "The nineteen seventies - the energy crisis" (PDF). http://www.nbpower.com/html/en/about/publications/history_pdfs/history70.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
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  34. ^ "Saying Goodbye to Courtenay Bay Generating Station"
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  50. ^ Pollack, John (November 18, 2009). "Hundreds of demonstrators protest NB Power sale agreement at Legislature". Telegraph-Journal (Saint John, N.B.): p. A3. http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/actualites/article/860806. Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  51. ^ Léger Marketing (November 22, 2009). "Rapport d'étude: réaction des Néo-Brunswickois à la vente d’Énergie Nouveau-Brunswick à Hydro-Québec" (in French) (PDF). Montreal. http://www.legermarketing.com/documents/SPCLM/0911231FR.pdf. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  52. ^ Morris, Chris (2010-01-19). "Power deal reworked". Telegraph-Journal (Saint John, N.B.): pp. A1. http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/front/article/925190. Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  53. ^ CBC News (2010-03-24). "Quebec balked at NB Power sale costs". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2010/03/24/nb-nbpower-graham-1027.html. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  54. ^ Cousineau, Sophie (2010-03-25). "Une occasion manquée" (in French). La Presse (Montréal). http://lapresseaffaires.cyberpresse.ca/opinions/chroniques/sophie-cousineau/201003/25/01-4264029-une-occasion-manquee.php. Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  55. ^ Corbeil, Michel (2010-03-25). "Entente avortée entre Hydro-Québec et Énergie NB: un mauvais calcul politique" (in French). Le Soleil (Quebec City). http://www.cyberpresse.ca/le-soleil/affaires/actualite-economique/201003/24/01-4263998-entente-avortee-entre-hydro-quebec-et-energie-nb-un-mauvais-calcul-politique.php. Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  56. ^ NB Power 2010, pp. 47–49
  57. ^ NB Power (2006) (PDF). Annual Report 2005-2006. Fredericton. p. 68. http://www.nbpower.com/html/en/about/publications/annual/NBPAnn_05-06.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  58. ^ NB Power (2004) (PDF). Annual Report 2003-2004. Fredericton. p. 60. http://www.nbpower.com/html/en/about/publications/annual/ar2003_04eng.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  59. ^ NB Power (2002) (PDF). Annual Report 2001-2002. Fredericton. p. 62. http://www.nbpower.com/html/en/about/publications/annual/annrep2001.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  60. ^ NB Power (2000) (PDF). Annual Report 1999-2000. Fredericton. p. 32. http://www.nbpower.com/html/en/about/publications/annual/1999-2000en.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 

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